Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – It's a special thing being the son of a former NHL player.
They will tell you, to a man, that despite looking up to and emulating their famous fathers, they are carving out their own paths and becoming their own brand of player.
For MacTavish, it's no different, even if his dad is more prominent in this city than the others. Craig MacTavish, the Edmonton Oilers' Vice President of Hockey Operations, has 1286 NHL games under his belt – including nine seasons with the Copper and Blue – and also coached the Oil to the Stanley Cup final in 2006.
Sean was only two when his father retired following the 1997 season as a member of the St. Louis Blues, so he doesn't have vivid memories of seeing him play live.
"I haven't actually watched him too much," he said. "I know he was a gritty hard-working guy.
"I just try to be my own player, obviously. He has input on what to do better, which I like."
It goes without saying that the elder MacTavish's schedule is just a tad busy, but it's not like he doesn't watch Sean play.
"Obviously, he tries to come to as many games as he can, but he's on the road all the time and hasn't been able to come to many," he said. "But his office is just looking over the practice rink (the Downtown Community Arena, attached to the Oilers' home at Rogers Place), so I can look up and see him and some of his buddies that he's working with up there watching over us."
What they may see is a young man coming into his own as a player. Sean MacTavish has goals in back to back games for the Griffins and will lead them into Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference action against UAlberta-Augustana this weekend (Friday, 7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena, and Saturday, 6 p.m., Camrose).
"I think Sean, at this point in his life, is kind of blazing his own trail," said Griffins interim head coach Michael Ringrose. "Craig has obviously been a huge influence on his life and he would tell you that, but at this point, he's making his own way.
"He handles that well, too. He's had to do it his whole life. He just goes about his business, doesn't get too wrapped up in it and has a really mature approach to it."
MacTavish played for two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Sherwood Park Crusaders (2012-14) before committing to the University of Alaska-Anchorage. He spent two seasons in the NCAA (2015-17) before returning home to play in the ACAC.
Of his memories there, the road trips from the isolated American State stand out.
"We'd usually leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday and stay on the road for 13 days, so that was a lot of school to miss," he said, noting most of the travel was in the central time zone, but a trip to play Penn State was a highlight.
"The team did a good job of making sure we were on top of (our studies). It wasn't easy to get off track."
The level of the ACAC, he says, is comparable. So far, in 23 games, he has six goals and 16 points, which puts him fifth in scoring on the Griffins.
"He's always been offensively gifted," said Ringrose. "He has the ability to make plays. I've watched him play for the better part of a decade now – coached against him lots – and now I finally get the opportunity to coach him. He has really good offensive instincts – puts himself in good spots and as a result he is able to create for you."
There was no better evidence of that hockey IQ than last Friday when he scored the double-overtime winning goal over Concordia by crashing the crease at just the right time to convert a Brett Njaa pass. Lately, he's been clicking well on a line with Njaa and Tyler Mrkonjic, and has seven points in his last eight games.
"He's been really good since the Christmas break," said Ringrose. "He's really found some chemistry with Njaazy and Mrkonjic on that line. The three of them are playing with a lot of confidence offensively and are able to make some plays together. You can tell that they like to play together, too. They have good energy and are certainly able to feed off of one another."
Their contributions will be key again as the Griffins head into a weekend home-and-home that will have the feel of a playoff series. Just one point separates four teams battling for Seeds 2-5 in the ACAC standings. The Griffins, Vikings and SAIT Trojans all have 33 points, a point shy of the Red Deer College Kings.
"It's exciting. To be part of a playoff race of this magnitude is an opportunity that you don't get very often," said Ringrose. "For us, we talk about embracing it. It's a lot of fun when you're playing meaningful hockey.
"For us, basically every game since the middle of November has been under that umbrella. We've been kind of jostling with the same three teams for quite some time. This weekend is a big weekend. I think that goes without saying. We're excited to get going."
Both SAIT and RDC have games remaining against No. 1 NAIT before the regular season ends, so a pair of victories for the Griffins this weekend could put them in the driver's seat for the No. 2 seed, which comes with a first-round playoff bye. At least one win over the Vikings would give MacEwan the season series against them should that tiebreaker be required.
"I don't think the guys are too worried about going out there and looking at the standings," said MacTavish. "It's in the back of our minds, but at the end of the day, we're just trying to go out there and win and control what we can control.
"What happens with the other teams is out of our control. As long as we win, we're happy."